Some skullduggery on the Senate floor today.
If I can piece together what happened, Mitch McConnell up and requested unanimous consent for an immediate vote on the Geithner plan – the initial offer that the White House made to avert the fiscal slope. And Harry Reid, calling it a “stunt,” objected to the UC request.
Now why would he do that? The Geithner plan was pretty much universally lauded by Democrats as the best offer in the context of deficit reduction. It includes near-term stimulus and raises most of its funds from tax increases that target the wealthy. It also abolishes the debt limit, effectively. What’s not to like?
Well, for a handful of Democrats, those taxes on the rich, of course. They were willing to go along with an increase to the top two tax rates. But they don’t like all the specifics of the deduction limits and loophole closures in the other half of the deal. In particular, the Geithner plan would take a middle ground on the estate tax, bringing it back to a $3.5 million exemption and a 45% tax rate. Max Baucus has said publicly that he prefers the estate tax get fixed at 2009 levels, with the $5 million exemption and the 35% tax rate. This is why Democrats didn’t include anything on the estate tax in their Senate tax bill, because they didn’t have a unified position in the caucus.
So Baucus, and several other ConservaDems, probably WOULD NOT VOTE FOR the Geithner plan, particularly over these issues of raising additional taxes on the rich. At any rate, they don’t want to take that vote, particularly because there’s no way the House would pass it, and it would involve Baucus et al walking the plank for no good reason. I personally think it’s a good reason to say that we don’t want an landed gentry in this country, but their mileage clearly varies.
In other words, for all the talk of the dysfunctional Republican caucus, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Democrats aren’t universally sweetness and light either.